Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, from Jesus our brother, and from the Holy Spirit our companion and guide.
Yesterday was 50 degrees, sunny, and blue skies. For a time Carol and I sat by our lake, felt the cold breeze, and watched our neighbors across the lake. The man directly across was fishing off his bank, and in the adjacent yard to his left his neighbor woman was scooping up winter dog poop. Since I could see both of them clearly, and since they both could see us, I waved and yelled “Hi.” A short conversation about fishing and dog poop followed. It was peculiar in that neither of the neighbors realized that the other was in their respective yards, and their answers reflected the comments I had directed to the other.
Finally, the fisherman realized that his neighbor must be outside too and called over the fence, “Are you over there neighbor?” (He called her by name but I could not hear it and do not know it.) When she responded, “Yes,” he then told her “Congratulations.” She said, “Thanks.”
I had no idea for what she or her family was being congratulated. I assumed that the fisherman knew some public information about his next door neighbor of which I had not an inkling. Yet, I could see her walking about her yard and him casting his line, neither of them able to see the other due to the tall fence on their mutual boundary line.
Meanwhile, Carol and I were talking about our mutual Sunday experiences. I had made a difficult public announcement, and so I talked about how I weaved what was happening in our congregation with what was happening in the Scripture lessons. Since she had heard one version of my sermon on Saturday night, she had told me that “I didn’t use as many stories as you did. However, I had one woman tell me, ‘That was the best sermon I have head you preach yet!’” Carol went on to talk about her afternoon experience of blessing the food for Delphos Rise!, which she explained, “is the same as Kid’s Against Hunger in Wapak.”
At first it struck me as odd that my neighbors across the lake could both be outside enjoying the beautiful day and neither be aware that the other was there too. I felt like God seeing the whole while they saw the parts. But then I realized that was a poor analogy for I was just as clueless. I know very little about them, not even their names. Even more so, I realized Carol and I have totally different neighbors. She is relating to folks at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Delphos while my primary contacts in Wapak are with St. Mark’s folks.
Our neighbors are not necessarily the folks that we live next to but the folks with whom we interact on a regular basis…at church…at work…at school...in the bleachers.
Neighbors are folks who know our story and those whose stories we know.
This Lent I invite you to begin to connect your stories with your neighbor’s stories and with God’s story. At the intersection of those three stories is found community.